What to Do When Someone Dies in Washington State

What to Do When Someone Dies in Washington State

Losing a loved one is an extremely difficult and emotional time, and dealing with the necessary paperwork and legalities can add to the stress. When someone dies in Washington State, there are several important steps that need to be taken to ensure that all the necessary arrangements are made and the deceased’s affairs are properly handled. In this article, we will guide you through the process and answer some commonly asked questions about what to do when someone dies in Washington State.

1. Notification of Death
The first step is to notify the appropriate authorities and individuals of the death. If the person dies at home under hospice care, the hospice nurse or attending physician should be contacted. If the death occurs suddenly or in a healthcare facility, the attending physician or nursing staff should be notified. You should also inform close family members and friends of the deceased.

2. Obtain a Pronouncement of Death
A pronouncement of death is required to legally confirm the passing of an individual. This can be done by a healthcare professional, such as a physician or a registered nurse. Once the death has been pronounced, the funeral home can be contacted to make arrangements for the transportation and care of the deceased.

3. Choose a Funeral Home
Selecting a funeral home is an important decision. Take the time to research and find a funeral home that aligns with your needs and budget. Funeral homes can assist with various aspects, including embalming, cremation, transportation, and arranging the funeral service.

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4. Plan the Funeral or Memorial Service
Decide whether you want to have a funeral service, memorial service, or both. Consider the wishes of the deceased, as well as the preferences of family members. Funeral homes can help you with the logistics of planning and organizing the service, including selecting a venue, scheduling the date and time, and coordinating with clergy or celebrants.

5. Obtain Death Certificates
Death certificates are official documents that certify the cause and fact of death. They are needed for various legal purposes, such as closing bank accounts, filing insurance claims, and transferring ownership of assets. You can obtain certified copies of the death certificate from the funeral home or directly from the Washington State Department of Health.

6. Inform Relevant Parties
Notify the deceased’s employer, attorney, financial institutions, insurance companies, and any government agencies they were associated with. This will help ensure that all necessary paperwork is completed to settle their affairs. It’s also important to cancel any subscriptions, memberships, or services in the deceased’s name.

7. Settle the Estate
If the deceased had a will, the designated executor should consult with an attorney to initiate the probate process. If there is no will, the state’s intestate succession laws will determine how the estate is distributed. The executor is responsible for managing the deceased’s assets, paying outstanding debts, and distributing the remaining property to the beneficiaries.


Q: How long do I have to file a death certificate in Washington State?
A: The death certificate must be filed within three days of the death occurring.

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Q: Can I bury the deceased on private property?
A: In Washington State, burials on private property are allowed, but certain regulations and permits must be followed. It is advisable to consult with local authorities and obtain legal guidance before proceeding.

Q: Can I be compensated for funeral expenses in Washington State?
A: Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, you may be eligible for financial assistance through the Crime Victims Compensation Program or Social Security benefits. Consult with relevant agencies to explore available options.

Q: Can I donate the deceased’s body to science in Washington State?
A: Yes, Washington State allows for body donation to medical schools and research institutions. Contact local medical schools or organizations specializing in body donation for more information.

Q: What happens to the deceased’s debts?
A: Debts are typically paid from the assets of the deceased’s estate. If there are insufficient assets to cover the debts, they may be discharged, depending on the type of debt and the circumstances.

Losing a loved one is never easy, but understanding the necessary steps and procedures can help alleviate some of the stress during this challenging time. By following the guidelines outlined above and seeking professional advice when needed, you can ensure that your loved one’s affairs are handled appropriately and their memory is honored in the best possible way.